Alone in the Universe
|Alone in the Universe|
|Studio album by Jeff Lynne's ELO|
|Released||November 13, 2015|
|Electric Light Orchestra chronology|
|Electric Light Orchestra studio album chronology|
|Singles from Alone in the Universe|
Alone in the Universe is the thirteenth studio album by British rock band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), and the first credited to Jeff Lynne's ELO. The moniker came out from Lynne as a response to ELO tribute and imitation bands, who repeatedly used ELO for promoting their own tours. Released on 13 November 2015, the album is the first of new original material credited to the group since Zoom in 2001, and the second since the group's original disbandment in 1986. The album was met with generally favourable reviews, peaking at number two on the Billboard Top Rock Albums and number four on the UK Albums Chart, where it has been certified Platinum.
Background and recording
ELO originally disbanded in 1986. In 2001, co-founder Jeff Lynne attempted to reform the band for a new tour to promote Zoom, the last studio album of original material credited to ELO, but the tour was cancelled due to low ticket sales. Lynne returned to freelance record producing. Years later, BBC DJ Chris Evans invited Lynne on the air and, with listener backing, urged him to tour again. The recording of his solo covers album, Long Wave (2012), was also inspirational for Lynne, and led him to experiment more with his songwriting based on the described "adventurous" qualities of the traditional pop standards he had chosen.
The group subsequently returned for a single performance at Hyde Park in September 2014 as Jeff Lynne's ELO. Of the original ELO members, Lynne was the only founding member present, accompanied by Richard Tandy, the band's veteran keyboardist. Lynne said he hadn't spoken to co-founder Bev Bevan in about 30 years, adding "Richard is my lifetime man in the group. ... He's a great musician, a great piano player and I really enjoy his company." Alone in the Universe would be recorded at Lynne's home studio, Bungalow Palace, over the course of 18 months. Lynne played nearly every instrument himself; the only other two people involved in the album's production were Laura Lynne, Jeff's daughter, who sings background vocals on "Love and Rain" and "One Step at a Time", and Steve Jay, the album's engineer, who plays the shaker and tambourine.
On 24 September 2015, Alone in the Universe was announced. When asked by a journalist what he had been doing since Zoom, the previous ELO album, Lynne jokingly responded: "I have no idea. I like a drink. I did lots of things. I just can’t think what it was."
The album begins with its first single, "When I Was a Boy". The lyrics are about Lynne's childhood and teenage years in Birmingham, a part of his life he had visited through "Long Black Road" on Zoom. He said in an interview with Rolling Stone: "It's the most autobiographical song I've ever done. The words just wrote themselves, whereas normally I'd sweat them out and chain myself to my desk. It was about growing up and listening to my little crystal-set radio with headphones." "Love and Rain", which began as an old recording demo, is one of Lynne's favourite songs. In his own words, the main riff sounded like a giant Clavinet, but it was actually a Telecaster. His daughter Laura sings backing vocals on it.
The album's second single was "When the Night Comes". The song has a reggae rhythm, and it's one of the few songs on the album that features a string section. The track started life as a demo recorded on cassette, featuring a few basic chords, before it developed into the song featured on the album. "The Sun Will Shine on You" is a slow song that Lynne wrote for somebody he loved who was facing some big trouble, and at the same time to cheer himself up. As he said, the song made him feel better, a little less alone in the universe.
On "Ain't it a Drag", Lynne said "It began because I wanted a rocker for the album. You always need a rocker – at least I do. I was in the mood to do almost a Mersey Beat number and to me there’s something about Ain’t It a Drag that sounds a bit like Mersey Beat. All these years later, that whole Mersey Beat thing still works!". "I'm Leaving You" was a song Lynne wrote in tribute of his close friend and fellow Wilbury, Roy Orbison. He said: "I tried to write a Roy Orbison song like he would have written with his pal Joe Melson. That kind of style. Obviously not the singing. But the tune could've been a Roy Orbison song. It would have been a great one if he had sung it. But of course, I’m a bit late for that by about 28 years. He was a lovely guy anyway that I wanted to give him a nod on this album." 
The last single released before the album saw the light was "One Step at a Time", which has a slightly more modern disco kind of vibe. Lynne said: "I didn’t have quite enough up-tempo songs. It’s got some very intricate chords in the verse, which I like a lot, because it’s sort of old-fashioned music but with a regular rock and roll beat." Lynne also described the start of the title song, "Alone in the Universe": It was inspired by an article he read about the Voyager 1 probe leaving the solar system, becoming the first man-made object to enter interstellar space. "It tickled me thinking about that. I mean, how lonely can you get? I sort of turned it into a missing-somebody type of deal like Voyager 1 was missing Voyager 2, so I turned it into people," he said.
The first single, "When I Was a Boy", was released digitally on 24 September 2015 and a music video for the single was soon released. "When The Night Comes" was released as the second single on 15 October 2015. "One Step at a Time" was released on 30 October 2015. These first three singles could be downloaded digitally when pre-ordering the album. "Ain't It a Drag" was released as a single on 1 April 2016 with an animated videoclip, nearly five months after the album's release.
Alone in the Universe was eventually released on 13 November 2015 via record label Columbia. The album was made available on CD, vinyl and digital download, on both regular and Deluxe editions. Deluxe edition contains two extra tracks: "Fault Line" and "Blue". Japanese editions (both standard and Deluxe) contain all tracks plus "On My Mind", exclusive to that country. The album reached number 4 in the UK Albums Chart, best result since 1983's Secret Messages. Meanwhile, in the USA, it peaked at number 2 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums chart, then at number 23 on The Billboard 200 album chart, best result since 1981's Time.
Alone in the Universe Tour
On 9 November 2015, four days before the album's release, Jeff Lynne's ELO gave a live performance at Porchester Hall, London. Following the album's release, Jeff Lynne's ELO set out on a small promotional tour which included a full performance for BBC Radio 2 on 12 November 2015 at the BBC Radio Theatre in London, presented by Jo Whiley, and played on the Royal Variety Performance the day after. In late November 2015, ELO performed their first shows in the United States in 30 years in New York City and Los Angeles. Both shows quickly sold out. The band also gave television performances on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS This Morning. The performance on CBS was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award. On 5 April 2016, Jeff Lynne's ELO embarked on the Alone in the Universe Tour, performing at various arena venues in Europe and UK, like the O2 and the Barclaycard Arena. Also, ELO filled the legendary Sunday teatime slot for Glastonbury's 2016 Festival. On June 27 it was announced that the band will play Wembley Stadium for one night only on June 24, 2017. In September the band will play at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. English rock band The Feeling supported Jeff Lynne's ELO on every UK and European show, except for one in Birmingham and one in Dublin. The latter was postponed, following doctor's advice, for 8 days due to Jeff contracting laryngitis. The support band for the rescheduled gig came from local band, The Shoos. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association announced that the band is going to perform three shows at the Hollywood Bowl Fireworks Finale in September 2016.
The album received generally favourable reviews, with Q declaring Alone in the Universe "warm-hearted, consummate, just about perfect." Most discourse surrounding the album discussed how it fits in with the rest of their discography, with Pitchfork calling it "a fine addition to their catalog" and "much better than these late-career albums tend to sound." The Guardian suggested in its four of five star review: "While he only once comes close to matching the pop perfection of his 70s imperial phase ... there’s plenty to enjoy elsewhere. ... There is only one misstep – the clumsy, Whitesnake-worthy lyrics to "Dirty to the Bone" are rooted a little too firmly in the 70s – but otherwise this is an excellent return." Trucking concluded a two of five star review by suggesting: "While not necessarily horrendous, AITU hardly recaptures ELO’s glory days, sounding empty, under-produced, and more like a collection of 1970s B-sides."
All tracks written by Jeff Lynne.
|1.||"When I Was a Boy"||3:12|
|2.||"Love and Rain"||3:29|
|3.||"Dirty to the Bone"||3:06|
|4.||"When the Night Comes"||3:22|
|5.||"The Sun Will Shine on You"||3:29|
|6.||"Ain't It a Drag"||2:34|
|7.||"All My Life"||2:50|
|8.||"I'm Leaving You"||3:07|
|9.||"One Step at a Time"||3:21|
|10.||"Alone in the Universe"||3:54|
|11.||"On My Mind" (Japan only)||3:09|
|Deluxe edition bonus tracks|
|13.||"On My Mind" (Japan only, appears as track 11 on standard edition)||3:09|
- Jeff Lynne – lead and backing vocals, guitar, bass, piano, drums, keyboards, vibraphones, production, mixing
- Steve Jay – shaker, tambourine, engineering, mixing
- Laura Lynne – backing vocals on "Love and Rain" and "One Step at a Time"
Per liner notes.
Charts and certifications
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